Last week, Ian started a new project that required him to work with a team in Barcelona for a week. Without any hesitation, we packed our laptops and summer clothes, heading to the sunny Catalonia city.
While Ian got the workplace picked for him, I had the freedom to choose my working space or whether to work at all. Resisting the temptation of strolling along Barcelona’s picturesque alleyways, I went for the former.
My Monday was spent at the flat that we rent for the week. Our host has a beautiful cat that took the longest siesta one has ever seen.
It was so pleasant glancing at the sleeping cat and typing away most of the afternoon. However, she did wake up and my productivity plummeted thereafter. I couldn’t resist her big eyes staring at me, asking for attention, or the chance to take a selfie.
On the second day, I decided it best to leave the cat and went looking for a work-friendly cafe.
Being an aspiring content marketer, I first googled “nice work cafes" and "Barcelona”, scanned through a few list articles, then picked the closest two. Unfortunately, they were both packed with people enjoying their breakfast and brunch, and I didn’t see either an empty table or a socket.
I turned to a website call Workfrom, which looks a lot like AirBnB and has a similar concept. Its community is yet to grow though, as there are few reviews for verification. I chose two regardless, but the theme repeated: a busy place with small tables, and no power sockets.
When it approached 2pm, I gave up the search for power and settled into a cozy tearoom, enjoy a healthy salad and a quite corner for myself. It's so nice nice that I was reluctant to leave when my laptop battery went flat.
Actually, the only coffee shop where we could power up our phones and laptops was found by chance on our first day in Barcelona, El Jardin. It also has comfy chairs, a beautiful view over a green garden and a relaxing vibe. It would make a perfect place to work if you don’t mind using a portable toilet.
As I didn’t have much success with cafes, and home-working with a cat was too distractive, I opted for the third option: a co-working space.
I first checked out Barcelona’s Garden Talent. It’s near Gracia, off the Avenue Diagonal where all the fancy shops are. The office had a good atmosphere and a friendly, patient office manager, but they only take flexible members for minimum four days. Eventually, I decided to join Ian in another co-working place called A poc a poc.
I like that co-working places are focusing more and more on environmental friendliness and well-being. A poc a poc is one of those with eco-friendly style tables, standing desks, and healthy vegetarian lunches. There’s also an amazing rooftop garden that makes a meeting look like a date. You can go up there to take your calls while sunbathing. If you look closely, you will also find some hanging nectarines. I have to say that I didn’t care much for nectarines until I came to Barcelona.
In the vicinity of A poc a poc, there are many nice little restaurants/bars to grab a casual lunch or a well-deserved drink after work. Coming from Amsterdam, we found that our money stretches much further here since the food is made with fresh and high-quality ingredients but doesn’t make a dent in our pocket. Wine is very cheap. Same goes for beer even though the selection is small, as Spain has much a stronger wine culture. A five-minute walk from the co-working space is Ale&Hop, the best beer cafe in Northern Spain for three continuous years. No need for guessing where we hung after work.
In Barcelona, people take long lunches. I consider it a step up from office lunch in Amsterdam and definitely better than whatever it is in the UK (when I was there).
Back in 2010 when I was working in Newcastle, my colleagues often ate lunch at their desks despite the existence of a canteen. Some took their lunch to their car for some private and anti-social time.
In this office at the centre of Barcelona, freelancers take no less than an hour for lunch. On Friday, a private chef came to the house and cooked us a three-course vegetarian Mexican lunch. Some might question the amount of work the Spanish produces when most didn’t come in before 10:30am, but I myself had a productive week regardless.
I was typing up this post at 6pm on Friday, and I only started at 10am. Even though I am totally a morning person, Barcelona has changed something in me.
In my one year of remote working, this week in Barcelona stands out as truly educational. It made me want to slow down a little and carefully consider the priorities in life.